After taking two wins already this year, former world champion Marta Bastianelli won the 14th edition of Omloop van het Hageland.
In her final season before retirement, the 34-year-old took the sprint from a 10 woman group that had formed just over 35km from the finish in Tielt-Winge, east of Brussels. The Italian had been particularly active in maintaining momentum in the group, but was still able to take victory, Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) finishing second, with a super-aggressive Floortje Mackaij (DSM) taking third by a tyre’s width.
The closing five kilometres was glorious chaos, Mackaij and her DSM teammate, British champion Pfeiffer Georgi taking turns to attack. However, despite her earlier commitment Bastianelli kept her powder dry as the finish approached.
When their last dig was absorbed, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak found herself on the front far too early, starting her sprint 500m out. But it was not to be for the SDWorx rider as she was absorbed and the dash to victory happened ahead of her.
The entire race was absorbing, with numerous attacks forming multiple strong breakaways, and though they were often not fully committed it made for aggressive and entertaining racing all day.
Bastianelli’s success was not only the third of her season, she is also the first woman to win the race on three occasions. She last won it 2019 when she began the year in similar style, going on to win Ronde van Drenthe and notably the Tour of Flanders, finishing in the top 10 of her first 16 race days that year.
How it happened
With no women’s Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne, the peloton headed east of Brussels for the 14th edition of the 1.1 classified Omloop van het Hageland, for what has become the traditional second race of the women’s Opening Weekend.
Even before Omloop het Nieuwsblad stepped up to UCI ProSeries level the Sunday race often saw teams alter their squads slightly and that was the case this year. And though two fewer WorldTeams lined up for the start in Tienen, there were still 11 top-level squads and some big names.
The peloton rolled out and headed north to the finish town of Tielt-Winge and across the line, where they rode two long then two shorter loops comprising the day’s 128.2km course.
The race stayed largely together until the first passage of the finish line when Swiss road and time trial champion Marlen Reusser (SDWorx) and Movistar’s Aude Biannic made a move off the front. But when the French rider suffered a mechanical, they were both absorbed by the bunch, Reusser’s team taking responsibility on the front on extremely narrow roads.
Reusser though, seemed determined to make the race, once again moving off the front on the first of two longer, 32km loops, Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo) and Alicia González (Movistar) heading up the road with her.
However, the leaders were unable to create decent gap, DSM leading the chase until their young Dutch rider Charlotte Kool was able to bridge on one of the many short, punchy climbs on the route.
With Kool making it four on the front, 18-year-old Brit Flora Perkins (Le Col-Wahoo) made her own attempt to bridge the gap, but struggled to close what was soon a one-minute gap, and was left dangling half way between the two.
While Perkins’s expedition off the front was relatively short-lived, at the front Kool, at 22 the youngest in the breakaway, stoically refused to come through, her presence instead intended to make the race easier for her sprinter, 2020 race winner Lorena Wiebes.
The peloton was in no mood to give such a strong group too much space, with Grace Brown and her FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope team particularly aggressive, bringing the leaders back with just under 60km remaining.
However, no sooner had they been caught than Reusser went again, once again with a Movistar rider on her wheel, this time Emma Norsgaard. British champion Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM) then bridged across with Vittoria Guazzini (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Daniek Hengeveld (GT Krush Tunap).
Behind the big guns were on the move though. European champion Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky (SDWorx) and Lorena Wiebes chased the leaders down, and an eight-woman group formed on the front.
While the eight women included two from both DSM and SDWorx, cooperation between them was excellent, even the sprinters coming through. For a while at least, as with the gap at only 35 seconds, Georgi and Hengeveld moved off the front, the remnants of the break soon caught by the bunch led by UAE Team ADQ.
But in what was becoming an increasingly dynamic race, the new leading duo were also caught, and another group emerged at the top of one of the cobbled climbs.
This time Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and Elena Cecchini (SDWorx), Georgi and Floortje Mackaij (DSM), Biannic and Norsgaard (Movistar), Clara Copponi (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo), Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ) and Valerie Demay (Liv Racing-Xstra) got away.
But their lead took time to become a winning one, BikeExchange Jayco keeping them on a tight leash, at just 30 seconds with 30km to go, and the start of two shorter, closing laps.
And that’s how it stayed for most of the penultimate lap, the leaders crossing the line with a lead of 26 seconds, though their commitment seemed to be waning, Bastianelli and Biannic doing most of the work.
However, halfway through the final lap a huge turn from former French champion, Biannic saw their lead extend to 45 seconds before Georgi attacked with 8km to go. The moment she was caught team-mate Mackaij and the DSM pair began playing one-two after one-two into the final, but neither could get away and the sprint was inevitable.
Craywinkelhof Omloop van het Hageland Race: Tienen - Tielt Winge (128.2km)
1. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) UAE Team ADQ in 3-24-47
2. Emma Norsgaard (Den) Movistar
3. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) DSM
4. Elena Cecchini (Ita) SDWorx
5. Shirin van Anrooij (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
6. Clara Copponi (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
7. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Ned) SDWorx all at same time
8. Valerie Demey (Bel) Liv Racing-Xstra at 05 sec.
9. Pfeiffer Georgi (Gbr) DSM at same time
10. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) DSM at 32 sec.
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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.
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